Egypt's Defense Minister read a statement on Egyptian TV on Monday evening that appeared to give both President Mohamed Morsi's government and the masses of protesters gathered against him just 48 hours to resolve their dispute. It's not clear precisely what the military is demanding or what they will do if they feel their standards are not met, but many are taking the statement as a threat to intervene.
In February 2011, after two weeks of protests, Egypt's powerful military had helped to usher out President Hosni Mubarak – something that some of Morsi's opponents are hoping the military might do again. Seven days ago, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the army chief who also read Monday's statement, warned that the government and protesters had one week to reach some sort of understanding. You can see this one-week ultimatum referenced in the new statement.
Here is el-Sissi's statement in full, translated into English by NPR. I've also included a second translation, by Cairo Scene, to provide both an alternate read and a sense of the variability of translating Arabic into English. Here's NPR's:
Armed Forces asserts the following:
The Armed Forces will not take part in the policy making and will not accept a role outside of the democratic framework set by the people.
The nation's national security is under threat following the latest developments, each side should exhibit responsibility.
The Armed Forces had previously expected this instability, had given a week for the various forces to reach consensus and end the crisis, but this week passed with no action, which led the people to go on the streets, to express their freedom in a manner that impressed the local and international community.
Wasting more time will not result except in more polarization and conflict. The people of Egypt have suffered for so long with no one to save them. Accordingly, the Armed Forces feels obligated to embrace the will of the people who proved they are able to do the impossible.
The Armed Forces renews its call and give the political forces a 48 hour ultimatum as a last chance to carry the burdens of this historic situation that the nation is going through.
The Armed Forces calls upon everyone that if the people's demands aren't set within the timeframe, based on its historic and national obligation it will have to declare a roadmap and procedures that oversee to include all mainstreams including the youth who started this glorious revolution without excluding anyone
And here's Cairo Scene:
Egypt and the whole world witnessed demonstrations and a departure for the great people of Egypt to express their opinion and will peacefully and in a civilised and unprecedented manner.
Everyone saw the movement of the Egyptian people and heard their voice with the utmost respect and attention ... It is imperative for the people to have a response regarding the movement by each party with any degree of responsibility in these dangerous circumstances surrounding the homeland.
The Egyptian armed forces - as a major party in the equation of the future and based on historical and national responsibility in protecting the safety and security of this nation - emphasises the following:
1.The armed forces refuses to be a party in politics or go against the democratic thoughts that emanate from the people of Egypt of their own free will.
2. The national security of the state is at risk from the developments taking place in the country, which makes it imperative for us to prevent these risks.
3. The armed forces have sensed the seriousness of the present situation and carries with it the demands of the great Egyptian people ... A week time-frame had already been set for the demands of the people to be met and with no avail, which has led to the great people of Egypt to take to the streets and voice their dissent.
4. The loss of more time will only bring more division and wrestle, which we warned about and still continue to warn about.
5. The good people of Egypt have suffered and have not found any response to their woes and trouble, and this casts a moral obligation on the armed forces to answer the demands of that people who will do anything if shown the proper amount of attention and support.
The armed forces calls for the demands of the great people of Egypt to be met, and we give all political parties 48 hours to resolve all conflicts and issue, and we will not forgive any political party that does not fulfill and meet their responsibilities.
6. The armed forces repeat the urgency of all the people's demands to be met within 48 hours, and if the demands of the people are not met within that time period, then we will be obliged to fullfil our historical duty towards our country and the great people of Egypt to map out a future plan for the country in accordance to the demands of the Egyptian people and with the contribution of all aspects of the population, especially the youth who have proven themselves time and time again, and without exclusion of any political party.
Tribute and thanks to the great men of the armed forces who have remained loyal and faithful to their duties towards their country and its great people with all the determination and professionalism in the world.
The key phrase in both versions is in that second-to-last paragraph. What exactly does el-Sissi mean by saying that the Egyptian military would "map out a future plan?" What role does the military see for itself in that sort of a plan? It's not clear.
Late on Sunday, military helicopters hovering over Tahrir Square dropped Egyptian national flags on the anti-government protests, which was seen by many as a show of support.